Brazil: President ousted by Senate

As expected, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has been ousted by a vote of the Senate following her impeachment trial.

Not much time for blogging right now (as has been the case for a while–obviously), but a few quick observations follow.

I said at the time that she needed to lose her reelection bid; it was quite close. While some folks are looking at this and saying it shows why Brazil should have adopted a parliamentary system, I actually think presidentialism serves Brazil pretty well. I admit it is harder (again) to make that case this year.

Another way of stating my point is that the PT was quite good for Brazil for 12 years. The PT needed presidentialism to make it into power. And, no, I know I am not supposed to evaluate a regime type based on who wins (although I liked presidentialism here better as soon as Obama won!). But I really think parliamentartism in Brazil would be an ugly mess; the PT is one of the few major parties that is at all programmatic. And it probably would have been consigned to permanent opposition under a parliamentary regime, with shifting coalitions based on particularism and cronyism and not much on policy responsibility.

In any case, actual parliamentarism was never really on the table in the period following military rule, as far as I know. Back in the 1980s when the current constitution was drafted, what was called the “parliamentary” option actually was semi-presidential. And that might not be such a bad option for Brazil, but given the nature of the party system, it would still likely lean pretty strongly presidential, more-or-less regardless of the formal powers.

Of all the news stories I pulled up in searching on this, I noticed that most of them said that the Brazilian Senate had “impeached” the president today. As I understand that term, no, she was impeached already by the Chamber. The term means to bring charges, after all. Today she was convicted and removed.

And, no, it is not a “coup”. This follows the constitutional procedures. Whether the charges are “valid” or not is a separate question; the constitutional bodies with the responsibility in such cases said they were.

Some have said it is a bad precedent. The main precedent is it’s really bad to fail to retain even one third of the legislators’ backing, even if you have a “fixed” term.

 

 

38 thoughts on “Brazil: President ousted by Senate

  1. Actually, due process was not followed on many ocasions. To say that it is not a coup because procedure has been followed misses the point, but is inaccurate anyway. Many, many leaks were carefully leaked (which is completely illegal). The President was wiretapped- illegal. The Supreme Court waited until the Speaker of the House accepted the impeachment procedures to remove him, which may not be tecnically illegal but is such a bizarre excercise of discrecionarity, one cannot ignore it. And of course, there was no impeacheable offence in the first place, as even most of the senators that voted for recognize. Of course, one can stick to the absolutely formal aspects, and still believe it is not a coup, just as the animals believed in the value of the ever changing constitution and its interpretations in Orwells animal farm. Still, in both cases, at some point we have to recognize we’re beyond anything resembling a democracy.

    • Hans Kelsen’s distinction between formal validity (the decision was in fact voluntarily made by all and only, those officials who are legally authorised to make it) and material validity (those officials made an honest, reasonable and diligent attempt to follow the criteria specified by the law authorising that decision) might help here.
      I once attended a meeting of a student union council whose constitution said that a roll-call had to be held if three or more councillors “caught the eye of” the chairperson. Five or six stood up and waved, but the chair stated “I do not see three people”, and declared the motion carried on the voices. Formally valid (in the sense that no one was impersonating the chairperson or holding a gun to his head) but materially invalid. Of course, for legal effect formal usually trumps material.

    • Let me paraphrase Gerald Ford here, an impeachable offense is what two thirds of the Chamber of Deputies says it is.

      There is a tendency of many critics (saw it here in the US not too long ago) to think of impeachment as a legal matter. It isn’t, it’s political. The founders of the US constitution debated how to handle claims of constitutional charges against a sitting president, and decided to put it in the hands of the body closest to the voters–the first chamber. For better or worse, constitutional designers in many other presidential systems, including Brazil, have drawn a similar conclusion. In Brazil, however, the threshold is higher–two thirds, rather than a majority to bring the charges (impeach).

      I guess folks will call it what they want, but I prefer to keep concepts clear and not let them become twisted by political preference. This was not a coup by any meaningful definition. It was an impeachment and conviction. That does not mean it was “right” to do; but that is what it was.

      • Bush v Gore was correctly decided in Kelsen-fornal terms, but not necessarily in Kelsen-material terms. That was certainly the view of the minority in the supreme court who chose to dissent rather than, as has been the case with every other minority in the history of that court, respectfully dissent.

        I wouldn’t call Bisg v Gore or the Roussef removal a coup either. But I also wouldn’t regard the impeachment (broad sense, not Shugartian sense) as a legitimate process. The partisan role played by the judiciaries is a particularly disturbing aspect of both cases.

      • The case for calling Bush vs. Gore a coup is better than calling the removal of Rousseff a coup. At least there is no doubt that congress in Brazil has this authority, even if there are claims it exercised it improperly in this case. In the US, on the other hand, there is no constitutionally granted role to the Supreme Court in adjudicating electoral votes. This competency is explicitly given to congress. No, the constitution does not say the Court can’t do it, and these things can happen when you name a body “Supreme”.

      • Thanks, MSS and Alan, Powell v McCormack and Bush v Gore are excellent examples to illustrate the distinction between formal validity and material validity. In one, legislators arguably usurped the role of judges, and in the other, judges arguably usurped the role of legislators. The common thread is that in both cases a Democrat lost.
        (Alan, your spell-checker continues to amaze me.)

      • … Whereas, by contrast, there was no clause whatsoever in the constitutions of Spain or Chile authorizing Generals Franco or Pinochet to remove the President “by any Means necessary, whenever the Same shall think it Necessary to prevent the President from contravening the several Provisions of this present Constitution.” Fortunately for FDR, Smedley Butler realized this.

      • If you want to prevent opportunistic impeachments) the Clinton impeachment in the the 1990s would be another example) then the measures are fairly obvious:

        1. abolish the vice-presidency, particularly vice-presidencies held by a party that does not hold the presidency;

        2. provide that the presidency not change hands between parties except by popular election;

        3. hold an early election as an alternative to impeachment.

        I am not convinced that semi-presidentialism is a particularly useful alternative.

        To take the current case, I am not sure it would be useful for Brazilians to be arguing the respective rights and powers of a president and prime minister instead of arguing the respective rights and powers of the president and the congress.

        Semi-presidentialism has, at best, a mixed record among the new democracies of Central Europe and is almost unknown elsewhere. Historic examples like Weimar and the Congo are even less encouraging. Part of that, I suspect, is the very high transaction costs of having two potential leaders of the executive branch.

      • Do you really think Newt Gingrich and co in 1998 were motivated by a burning desire to put Al Gore in the White House?

        If it ever existed, that desire certainly dissipated by November 2000.

      • I’m also not in favour of the opposition parties needing to suddenly mobilise for their second full-scale presidential in just 2, 3, or 4 years because (eg) Georges Pompidou dies. The USA would have had presidential by-elections in early 1964, mid- or late 1974, and early 1945 (only a few months after the regular 1944 election).

      • … Perhaps a constitution could stipulate that the Veep holds office for either (a) the next (say) 18 months, or (b) until the next regular general election, whichever is shorter, then a presidential special election is required, if one goes the Alan route.
        An argument could be made that the majority’s second choice is not “stale” after 18 months but may be “stale” after 36 or 42 months. Assuming that the majority are less enthusiastic about the Veep nominee than the Presidential nominee they vote for. (Possibly debatable, with counter-examples including, eg, Democrats in 1984 and Republicans in 2008).

      • In reply to Tom’s question about Newt Gingrich, no I don’t.

        It’s a matter of public record that Gingrich and his staff discussed impeaching Al Gore as well as Bill Clinton. I would think that rather proves my point about not having the presidency change hands between parties except by popular election.

      • I agree with Tom that special presidential elections at short notice would certainly not be appropriate for the US. I also think that, especially in the Brazil case, the Workers’ Party need to accept some responsibility for putting someone from the PMDB on the ticket; the decision presumably improved their electoral support, but they have to recognise it came with a trade-off. Especially when presidential elections take place under first-past-the-post, the vice-presidency can represent a prize given to a ‘coalition partner’, and could encourage presidential tickets to be broader (the best case I could think of to illustrate this is Taiwan 2004). Incidentally, this may be a good case for giving more executive/legislative responsibility to the Vice-President.

        In terms of preventing opportunistic impeachments, while keeping the vice-presidency, I would propose the following
        1. The Vice President should serve the remainder of the President’s term if the President is impeached, dies etc.
        2. In the event that the Vice President dies, or is impeached, the President shall appoint someone to fill the position, without any legislative interference.
        3. In the event, heavens forbid, that both the President and Vice President are simultaneously removed from office, a special election would take place within a year, with the Speaker of the House serving as Interim President.

        The immediate issue with #2 is that an impeached Vice-President could be replaced by someone from the President’s party, thus cheating those people who voted for the joint ticket out of the office. It could potentially be replaced by a vote of the Vice President’s party’s caucus.

      • Another interpretation is that the founders of the US were familiar with the British practice of impeachment and lodged impeachment in the same organ as the British did. Interpreting US impeachment from British impeachment is exactly the same as interpreting Brazilian impeachment from US impeachment. Let’s just not do it. What the founders of the US ay or may not thought about impeachment is highly contested and not particularly relevant to interpreting the US constitution, let alone the Brazilian constitution.

        Regarding mobilising for an early election as a frightful imposition on political parties is frankly bizarre.

        Elections held early, late or just on time are always a challenge to political parties. Perhaps if one is a possibility they may behave less opportunistically.

      • Alan, my talk about the US relates to the expedited primary process required, and not to any view about whether the US experience can be applied to other countries. I agree that the mobilisation issue would be less important in countries where the process of choosing a candidate was quicker, but my issue with immediate special elections was the removal of the office of vice-president, and the subsequent removal of an avenue by which a presidential ticket may appeal to a broader sector of voters.

      • I do not think the vice-presidency functions to broaden the ticket and, in any case, there are infinitely better mechanisms for doing that than requiring the president to accommodate a potential assassin in the cabinet. It cannot be the case that Taiwanese candidates are wise to with with potential assassins as running mates but that Brazilian candidates are unwise to run with potential assassins as running mates. Nor can it be the case that US tickets are narrower than Brazilian or Taiwanese tickets because US vice-presidents are invariably co-partisans of the president.

        I did a quick scan of major presidential democracies at Constitute. I included Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Mexico, South Korea, Uruguay, and the United States.

        Brazil actually has the most interesting provision which I quote here:

        TITLE IV CHAPTER II SECTION I ART 81
        If a vacancy occurs in the offices of President and Vice-President of the Republic, an election shall be held ninety days after the last vacancy occurred.

        §1°. If the vacancy occurs during the last two years of the President’s term of office, the election for both offices shall be made by the National Congress within thirty days after the last vacancy occurred, as provided by law.

        §2°. In any of these cases, those elected shall complete the terms of office of their predecessors.

        Of all cases, absolute succession (6 cases) is far and away the most common. Only South Korea has an absolute rule that a presidential election must be called within 70 days. The remaining countries provide for election on a double vacancy, within a certain part of the term, such as the first 2 years.

        There is evidently quite a strong feeling (which I share) against an unelected vice-president becoming the permanent president.

      • “It cannot be the case that Taiwanese candidates are wise to with with potential assassins as running mates but that Brazilian candidates are unwise to run with potential assassins as running mates.”

        I don’t believe I commented on the wisdom of the decisions of these candidates, but in the cases where Taiwanese candidates have chosen running mates from different parties or from outside parties entirely, there was much less risk involved, since the running mates either had no parliamentary support (2016) or weak parliamentary support (2004). These running mates are not ‘potential assassins’.

        On the other hand, the Workers’ Party must have known that the PMDB would be a major factor in the next legislature. Nonetheless, they chose a PMDB candidate to go on the ticket. This is unequivocally a risky decision, but presumably one that brought the party electoral rewards.

  2. Would Semi Presidentialism serve Brazil well assuming the President is as powerful as the French Fifth Republic or Brazil could emulate it’s mother country Portugal with it’s form of semi presidentialism. Brazil should try a Mixed Member Proportionate system or emulate Mexico by using a Mixed Member Majoritarian system, would you agree or disagree? Also if you could, what electoral system would suit Brazil well?

    In all countries with Presidentalism that have two chambers, are both chambers equal in all competencies and are unlike most parliamentary democracies where the lower house overrides the upper?

    • Regarding Brazil’s electoral system, I think a mixed-member system would be good, if only as a way to make closed-list PR more palatable to the electorate. As I understand it, the issue is the open nature of the lists, which appears to encourage catch-all, clientelistic parties (since they relieve party organisations from making any ideological decisions about what sort of politicians they are going to elect), as well as the low threshold for representation, which encourages fragmentation.

      The issue with a change to a closed-list system would be that it would be fiercely opposed by incumbent legislators, who prosper under the current system (as I believe has been pointed out here, movements away from open-list PR are extraordinarily rare). Such a proposal would also be easy to campaign against with the public (“don’t give power back to the party bosses!”), but these concerns could perhaps be assuaged by giving people ‘local MPs’.

      Ideally, such a proposal would be combined with a nationwide threshold of 4-5%, to calm fragmentation, though that could be combined with a 12.5-15% regional threshold to prevent Turkish-style incidents of nationwide parties winning seats in a state despite having minimal support there.

      • This (MMP) has been discussed in Brazil, but I do not know how realistic it is. SNTV also has been discussed. Near-opposite “solutions”!

        Basically, the clientelistic nature of Brazilian parties is probably somewhat over-determined, and there is only so much that electoral reform could do about it.

        I’d say the biggest flaws in the current electoral system are the high magnitude, the long lists, and the alliances. Most lists contain candidates from two or more (often many more) parties. An alliance list can have many more candidates than the magnitude of the district, and Brazil’s magnitudes range from 8 to 70.

        Inside an alliance list, the seat totals for the parties are determined by SNTV in the sense that an open list just means the top ‘s’ candidates win, where s=the number of seats won by the list, through D’Hondt). So smaller parties can win seats by concentrating their votes on one or a few candidates on such a list. This is exactly what they do.

        Note that as long as the alliance are allowed, a national threshold would be hard to apply. It would potentially mean skipping candidates on the open lists because their parties’ candidates, on the various different alliances in different states, would be ineligible if they had not accumulate the threshold’s worth of votes. I realize Henry meant a nationwide threshold with MMP and closed lists; even then, it is likely alliances would persist, and somehow trade nominations in the single-seat districts. So the question of how to apply a nationwide threshold would still be a challenge. Of course, one could require that the alliances contain the same parties across states, but I have a very hard time imagining that would be adopted.

        I have been doing some research on these alliances and candidate vote distributions. Some of it will be in a book manuscript that is about to go to a publisher–the main reason for the minimal blogging lately. But some of it does not fit the book, and may find its way into a blog post in the near future, especially given that some folks are currently paying more attention than usual to Brazil.

    • Semi-presidentialism is what was actually almost adopted in 1988, though it is referred to as “parliamentarism”. All models had the elected presidency, but the one that was narrowly voted down would have had most of the vast powers of the actual presidency instead in the hands of the cabinet/premier, responsible to the Chamber majority. This surely would have helped a lot in this crisis, making it possible to shift to a cohabitation cabinet, and making it less urgent for the opposition to throw the president out.

      It also might have helped to have no VP. Given multipartism, the VP candidate on Dilma’s ticket came from the largest party in congress other than the PT. Once the PMDB broke with the PT, they had a chance to grab the presidency.

      Most bicameral presidential systems have essentially co-equal chambers, although not Mexico. (I am talking about pure presidential here; off the top of my head, I would not know the answer for semi-presidential bicameral cases, but probably most are asymmetric, as is France, or unicameral.)

      • Why are most presidentialist countries that are bicameral have both chambers that are co-equal? Were most countries in Latin America trying to emulate the U.S Senate? Most Presidentialist countries don’t have 3 branches of government, they have 4, let’s make the two chambers of the legislative body 2 branches.

        Are there any Presidentialist countries where if the two chambers disagree where the President can intervene and demand a joint sitting to pass the bill that is causing the deadlock? No Presidentialist country has early elections or even the Swedish extra election method, but some have recalls for the President, how can one improve on Presidentialism?

        At least Brazil went ahead and impeached the President, Presidentialism doesn’t seem to be Brazil’s problem, it is the electoral system along with regionalism. I will ask the question again, how can Brazil improve on Presidentialism?

      • Co-equal as regards an ultimate yea or nay to legislation. When one chamber in a presidential system has special powers the other lacks, this is usually either (a) over matters that are more properly characterised as executive (appointments, treaties – usually the monopoly of the upper chamber) or (b) a symbolically significant but ultimately legally formal right to initiate (budget measures, impeachments – usually the monopoly of the lower house). I’d score the upper chambers as having more power overall, since they can usually act unilaterally on “their” prerogatives without needing the consent of the lower house, whereas the latter at some point needs the senate to agree to a budget or to impeachment. (And of course upper chambers are usually much smaller, so the power of any one senator is proportionately greater than that of any one deputy/ delegate/ representative).

      • Most bicameral semi-presidential countries have been weakly bicameral, especially today.

        One chamber can override the other if the President endorses its decision; for this a two-thirds majority is needed, but can still be blocked if the other chamber votes against by two-thirds majority.

        MSS, how is the Mexican Congress asymmetrically bicameral?

      • Re Mexico: the Senate has no role over the spending side of the budget.

        And, yes, a few Latin American countries have provisions on veto overrides that effectively weaken the senate in such votes, relative to the house.

      • I realise I did not specify a country for the override procedure above… I was referring to Chile.

      • Of course, giving upper houses elected by equal representation for federal units more power than lower houses is the opposite of how most parliamentary countries work. This is probably a consequence of lower houses under presidential systems perhaps being less efficient (more members means more time is needed to debate), though the US Senate’s 60 vote threshold probably removes any claim that chamber has to increased efficiency.

  3. Didn’t Brazil have a referendum on constitutional monarchy and on parliamentarism in 1993? I don’t know to what extent that counts as really ‘on the table’, of course. By ‘parliamentarism’, did they mean semi-presidentialism on that occasion as well?

    • There was a referendum on monarchy. I am not whether sure the option, had it passed, was specified in detail. But, yes, it presumably would have been parliamentary. I was referring, in the post, to the vote in the Constituent Assembly.

      The referendum of 1993 also had the “parliamentary republic” option, but as far as I know, this assumed an elected president, hence semi-presidential.

      Note that Brazil was briefly parliamentary in the early 1960s, though the head of state during that time remained the elected vice president.* This was pretty quickly overturned by a referendum, and the regime was overthrown by the military in 1964. So the parliamentary system with an indirectly elected head of state never really came into effect. But the amendment that had passed called for ending direct election of the president–just a historical footnote, but one of the very few cases of repeal of a provision for an elected presidential presidency.

      * The elected president had resigned. At the time, the vice president was elected separately from the president.

      (Wikipedia says that the option for monarchy got only around 13%–even less than I had remembered!)

      • “but as far as I know, this assumed an elected president, hence semi-presidential.”

        I have much doubt if these reasoning (direct election → presidential or semi-presidential system) makes sense – if a directed elected president have the same powers than a undirected elected president (or a monarch) in a parliamentary system, why the system should not also be considered parliamentary?

      • Miguel, I agree it is a strange classification. Let is look at a close analogy.

        George VI and Nicholas II were both hereditary monarchs and in fact were first cousins. A classification that reasoned the hereditary monarchy in both countries meant that the Britain of George VI and the Russia of Nicholas II had the same form of government would not be completely unproblematic.

      • I think most people, including MSS and myself, would consider the absolutist usage of the term ‘semi-presidentialism’ to be flawed, and would question whether a nation like Ireland really belongs in the category. However, I think the key common thread that differentiates a weak indirectly elected head of state from a weak directly elected President would be the popular mandate factor; the indirectly elected leader, if they exercise their powers, cannot claim to be acting with the backing of the people. In general, too, indirectly elected heads of state are generally given fewer powers than directly elected heads of state (though such a statement would surprise Patrice Lumumba); the difficulty and subjective nature of judging these powers makes the absolute category of ‘semi-presidential’ a useful way of making this distinction. A ‘President’ chosen by Parliament also often requires a super-majority to be elected, which makes it likely that the said person not only has no popular endorsement to use their powers, but is also not antagonistic towards the policy aims of most of the parliamentary parties.

      • In Presidents with Prime Ministers: Do Direct Elections Matter? (2009) Tavits, summarised here, found that:

        1 Quantitatively, she shows that direct elections have no significant impact on the level of presidential activism

        2 Qualitatively, she shows that presidents in some parliamentary systems, e.g. Hungary, have more power than presidents in some semi-presidential systems, e.g. Ireland

        3 Qualitatively, she also shows that presidential activism varies over time within countries, even though the method of election stays the same

        At minimum, the Tavits data set suggest we may need a definition of semi-presdineialism that goes beyond the method of appointment.

        One of Tavits’ cases is the first Irish president, a non-political poet. Finding such a rare creature as a non-political poet in Ireland may itself be a mark of political genius.

      • I prefer not to stretch categories too much. Semi-presidentialism means the president is elected popularly (among other criteria).

        If some unelected presidents are too powerful (formally or in actual practice) for the system to count as parliamentary, I have no problem with counting these as something else. But semi-presidential is already a fairly broad category in terms of both constitutional powers and actual behavior. Let’s not make it more incoherent.

        Of course, finding that behavior varies, even under similar institutions–or the same, over time–is not a threat to institutional analysis. The Dutch party system, for example, changed quite a lot from 1956 to 1999, even with “constant” rules. Institutions are not determinants. They set parameters, or channels, in which behavior takes place.

  4. The 1975 crisis in Australia should be instructive for the advocates of Kelsen-formal tactics. Ultimately the monarchy, the governor-generalship, and the senate were all weakened by the crisis. Kerr himself became a voluntary exile and Malcolm Fraser went from greatest landslide ever to electoral defeat in just over 7 years. Julia Gillard had a not dissimilar experience with a Kelsen-formal strategy. Sometimes waiting for the next election is better tactics.

    • I’d dispute that the Senate was weakened by the 1975 crisis in its (proper) legislative role, although it’s certainly true that no one has had the stomach to try to block the budget again in 41 years. (Contrast government shutdowns in the US which seem to be increasingly common.. JD, your cue to correct me there).
      The Australian Democrats, basically the John Andersons* of Australian politics, vowed when they were formed in 1977 that they would never block budget bills. This caused them much heart-rending in 1999 when they had to decide whether to block John Howard’s new GST. On the one hand, it was a “budget bill”. On the other hand, Don Chipp’s 1977 vow was pretty clearly directed at cases where the opposition in the upper house does not dispute the contents of the budget (once Kerr appointed Fraser, the Liberal Senators promptly passed Whitlam’s budget, before the Labor majority in the House could revoke their support for it) but is using it as a substitute for a German-style legal power of the parliament to remove some or all Cabinet Ministers by resolution.
      But apart from the budget issue (which had almost never been used in the 74 years previously) the Senate seems quite confident in its right to stare down a Prime Minister with a Lower House majority.
      * In the US sense. The John Anderson of Australian politics in an Australian sense was a National Party leader. There was also a philosophy professor at Univ of Sydney who was a sort of right-wing libertarian and very influential on the Germaine Greer generation.

      • I agree with Tom here. I don’t think the events of 1975 can be held liable for the failure of the Fraser Government in 1983 (a fair few things happened in the interim). I would also find it somewhat questionable as to whether the events actively weakened the office of Governor-General, or merely exposed an already existing weakness (though this is a genuine question, asked of those better educated than myself on this matter; if we assume that the Dismissal represented an overstepping of the G-G’s ‘normal role’, did the definition of ‘normal role’ actually change after 1975?).

        As to whether the role of the Senate has changed, I think the relative paucity of attempts to block the budget before 1975 (as Tom said), combined with the reduction of the electoral strength of the top two parties since then (thus reducing the likelihood of an ‘Opposition’ controlled Senate) makes it questionable as to whether the Senate’s power to block supply would have taken place more often without the Dismissal.

  5. Picking up on some themes in a mini-thread above…

    It is not obvious that a requirement for an early election would make a politically motivated impeachment less likely.* In fact, a constitutional amendment proposal to require an early election was circulating earlier this year in Brazil. I had some remarks about this option, versus succession by a VP, at the time.

    A party’s decision to abandon the president may be politically more tempting when it holds the VP, as was the case here. In a multiparty system it is common for the ticket to have candidates from different parties, and so if there is an impeachment/removal, the (erstwhile) partner gets the top job. However, if there is no vice president–as a means to ward off this eventuality–then what? Typically the head of the legislature becomes president. In a case where the president is a minority, i.e. a fragmented multiparty presidential system, odds are pretty high that the president-in-waiting is from one of the parties opposed to the president at the time of impeachment. So problem not solved.

    Would semi-presidentialism help? I’d say so, provided the president’s powers are contingent on having an ally as premier, and thus when the president loses majority support you get cohabitation. It’s less urgent to depose the president then. However, if the president has totally lost support of even a third of the assembly, there’s not much that can be done to save her. And maybe we shouldn’t be too interested in devising institutions that would do so.

    _____
    * Note: I am agnostic as to whether the removal of Rousseff was a politically motivated impeachment or a legally justified one. That is, which way I might come down on this would not affect the arguments I make here.

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